Their part in the future energy mix for vehicles may be small, but several companies are taking a renewed look at hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

That's if recent partnerships are anything to go by, at any rate--Toyota and BMW recently joined forces, as have Ford, Renault-Nissan and Daimler.

The U.S. Department of Energy is also continuing its research, and Toyota has loaned two fuel-cell vehicles to the DoE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Each vehicle will help the NREL with its research into hydrogen refueling infrastructure, renewable hydrogen production and vehicle performance.

The FCHV-adv vehicles--which stands for Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle advanced--will also provide insight into the longevity of fuel-cell systems.

By the end of the two-year research period, each Highlander-based vehicle will be four to five years old. Each car uses a fuel-cell system, with high-pressure hydrogen tanks, an electric motor, and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. As the name suggests, the car can run from battery power or the fuel cell--with the fuel cell system taking the place of an internal combustion engine in the hybrid mix.

According to the NREL, the FCHVs will be brought to events, showcasing the technology and helping educate the public on fuel-cells. At the same time, they'll be used to gather feedback on customer acceptance.

The hydrogen is generated through renewable sources, including wind and solar energy.

Toyota aims to release a production fuel cell vehicle in 2015, potentially along the lines of the FCV-R concept. Its new technology partner BMW will begin work on its own car in 2015, with a view to a production car by 2020.


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